On Sept. 22, U3 Arts student Alexei Simakov filed a Judicial Board (J-Board) petition against the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Executives, Board of Directors, and Elections SSMU, claiming that SSMU had violated its bylaws and constitution by failing to appoint Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Ben Fung through a Nominating Committee and a ratification by the Legislative Council.
“The contract of Mr. Ben Fung in the capacity of CEO expired on 30th May 2014, and was automatically rehired by President of SSMU, against article 2.4 of SSMU bylaws,” Simakov’s petition reads.
According to SSMU President Courtney Ayukawa, however, Fung was rehired for the 2014-2015 year by the previous executives after the job position had opened and he had reapplied.
“The decision was made before the current, 2014-2015 SSMU Executives’ terms had even started,” Ayukawa said. “Based upon a plain reading of the bylaws, the 2013-2014 Executive Committee’s decision to renew Ben Fung’s contract did not require a meeting of a Nominating Committee, given that the contract was a renewal, not a new hire.”
Fung affirmed that he was not a part of the processes by which he was rehired, stating that he merely applied for the position after it had reopened.
“Given Mr. Simakov’s petition mainly addresses the process by which Elections SSMU staff were appointed and not any specific actions of Elections SSMU, we won’t be responding to the petition as a respondent, but rather we will be indicated separately as a mis-en-cause,” Fung said. “We were not involved in the renewal of our contract in any way other than sending a re-application to SSMU HR just like any student applying to the job would have.”
According to Simakov, the elections and referenda carried out in the absence of an appropriately appointed CEO should be declared invalid, including the first Fall 2014 referendum—which included the Creation of the University Centre Building Fee—as well as this year’s First-Year Council (FYC) elections.
“[The] appointment of Elections SSMU staff, against the Bylaws and the Constitution, by the Respondents [should] be declared invalid,” the petition includes in its list of remedies sought by Simakov. “The positions of all Elections Staff [should then] be opened to all SSMU members [in favour of] employment equity.”
“All of his actions are illegitimate, as he is not the constitutionally recognized chief electoral officer of SSMU,” Simakov’s “Chief Adviser” McKenzie Kibler, U3 Arts, said.
Ayukawa explained that the bylaws are outdated and are currently undergoing reform as part of a multi-year project in order to more accurately reflect SSMU’s current operations.
“[For example, a] Certified Human Resources Professional (“CHRP”) now works for SSMU as a Human Resources Advisor,” she said. “I have searched through old documents relating to SSMU hiring process and cannot find evidence of the selection process outlined in By-Law Book I—[with a] Nominating Committee selecting the CEO and bringing that recommendation to Legislative Council—being followed for at least the past [five] years.”
Ayukawa further expressed concern about the remedies sought by Simakov.
“The Petitioner’s desired remedies are out of proportion with the alleged procedural irregularities that he describes in his declaration because of the grave effects it will have on many students, such as the new FYC Executives, and the SSMU,” she said. ”At this point, we would like the Judicial Board to declare the CEO’s renewed contract valid and dismiss all of the petitioner’s requested remedies.”
The respondents to this case are required to deliver a response to the J-Board by Oct. 29, while a J-Board hearing is scheduled for Nov. 3.
Simakov elaborated on his reasons for bringing the case forward.
“This is a violation of the constitution that is not about electoral politics,” Simakov said. “This is simply a matter of [SSMU] violating the constitution, which is something that everybody can agree is not acceptable. No one wins or loses except students.”
— With additional reporting by Abraham Moussako.